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Title: Spring Time Means Caterpillar Time
By: scardosi
March 14, 2019
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Kidspace's annual Butterfly Season is March 16-April 30 for 2019, which includes Caterpillar Adoptions! Caterpillars may be the easiest pet your kids will ever want to take home.  Take advantage of this magical program to teach children about the natural world and observe the stages of metamorphosis. 

Stage 1: Egg

Stage 2: Caterpillar/Larva

Stage 3: Chrysalis/Pupa

Stage 4: Butterfly


What to Expect?

During your caterpillar’s life, it will more than quadruple in size and explore its temporary habitat.  In their cups of food, which is an Insect Lore secrect recipe, but includes protein nutrients suitable for your little caterpillar.  They will eat and eat while growing larger and larger.  Caterpillars are known as “eating machines” which allows them to quickly grow and molt several times in just 7 to 10 days.  You will also begin to see its colors and features change.  The amount of food in your cup is all they need until they form a chrysalis.  When your caterpillar is ready it will crawl to the top of its cup to form a chrysalis.



A Painted Lady Caterpillar will not bite you, even if it crawls on your finger, but you may see other defense mechanisms.  It may curl into a ball when it feels vibrations or when the cup is accidentally shaken.  Caterpillars can stay still for a very long time if they think they are in danger. You may see it weaving something that looks like a web, this is called silk tenting. Some caterpillar species may build large tents together to stay warm and hide from predators. 


In the wild, most caterpillars have cryptic coloring in order to hide from predators.  This is commonly known as camouflage.  What do you think your Painted Lady Caterpillar would blend in with to hide in your backyard?  What predators do you think they would need to hide from?


As a chrysalis, it can wildly shake when it feels vibrations to shoo away predators.


As an adult butterfly, the Painted Lady can also blend into their environments and utilize the “eyespots” on their wings to trick predators into thinking they are other animals, such as owls.  This is called mimicry.  Can you think of other insects or animals that might use this method of defense?


Becoming a Butterfly?

Most butterflies emerge from a chrysalis, and most moths emerge from a cocoon which is similar to a chrysalis but has an additional layer of silk.  The Painted Lady Butterfly is one of the most widespread of all butterfly species in the world, but they prefer warmer climates.  Just as Monarchs, they will migrate south to find the warm weather and then migrate north again in the spring like we are seeing this week in Southern California! (Learn more about the Painted Lady Migration)


Let your butterfly stretch and dry its wings after it emerges in its temporary habitat.  When it breaks out of the chrysalis, excess pigment from forming its wings may also be released into the habitat in the color of red and orange. 


Feeding & Release?

Your butterfly can use its proboscis to slurp the juice out of cut-up orange slices.  It will start to flutter around its habitat when it is ready for release, which should be 1 to 2 days after it emerges.  Remember to release your butterfly in the warm sun of the afternoon, after birds have had their morning feeding.  Near gardens and bright flower bushes are the best spots for butterfly release.



Celebrate & Learn!

The 23rd Annual Butterfly Season at Kidspace is March 16 through April 30. There will be a daily Butterfly Exploration at 11:45am where families returning with their adult butterflies may release them together. Also check out the emergence cases on display in our Nature Exchange where you can observe caterpillars eating and moving through their life cycle. Launch the season with us on March 16 & 17 during a Butterfly Celebration with special guest DJ Bree Flower! Learn more: https://www.kidspacemuseum.org/events/butterfly



Author Info
scardosi's picture

Susan Cardosi-Albert, Assistant Director of Operations, has been with Kidspace Children's Museum since 2005 working in programs, events, retail, and communications.  Previous work includes the Los Angeles Zoo and COSI Science Center after gaining a BA in Communications and Children’s Literature.